Monday, March 30, 2009

Safety on The Water: Always a No. 1 Priority

Maybe you just bought a new boat...or a late-model performance boat that's just "new to you." You take a few minutes to check things out...count the life vests, check for a fire extinguisher, test your VHF radio...but are you really prepared for the worst, if it should happen? The fact is, there are a lot of items in a performance boat that need to be checked out--even things like anti syphon valves, Coast Guard approved fuel pumps, tanks and even electrical wire can sometimes make the difference between life and death. In many cases, these are not luxury items or safety bonuses. Having them is the law.

In addition. many or most insurance policies specify that your vessel meet all USCG specifications. Properly reviewing your boat's rigging could save your life or prevent an insurance claim from being declined. And don't assume that because a boat is "as shipped" automatically means that it is in full compliance. There have been boats which have won a lot of praise from magazines over the years, that if fully inspected, would not have met USCG specifications. Areas like bilge blower hose routing, operational lights being out, not having 100% ignition-protected components--these are often overlooked. And that doesn't even include common mistakes, like the failure to have required safety items like flares, flags, personal flotation devices (PFD's), throw lines and other equipment.

PHOTO CREDIT: United States Coast Guard

The good news is, there's plenty of help available that will help ensure your boat is ship-shape when it comes to safety. In many areas, local organizations like the local Marine Power Squadron or USCG Auxiliary will provide free boat inspections at the beginning of every boating season. Also, you can access the USCG boating safety regulations online HERE. Most of the information can be downloaded in PDF format, from vessel requirements and safety rules to navigation rules and state/federal boating laws. In fact, just about everything you need to know about safe boating can be found on the USCG boating safety site. Other great sites for safety information can be found at places like the Atlantic Maritime Academy website, which features a number of helpful and informative articles on seamanship.

And while you're at it, if your new to boating, be sure to take an approved boating course before you leave the dock; for younger boaters, it's a requirement but even older folks who are new to the sport, or who have not operated a boat for some time should take the time to learn or re-learn the basics. You--and your fellow boaters--will be glad you did.

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